StartUP Africa is just who we are and what it is most important: our dreams about the Africa we are building.
– Kimenyi Aimable, founder and CEO, Algorithm, Kigali, Rwanda
StartUP Africa is a ground-breaking television series that documents the effort to bridge the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world. This effort is led by young entrepreneurs, men and women, who are breaking stereotypes and building the future of Africa. The series celebrates and promotes diversity and the inclusion of sub-Saharan Africa as an integral and critical part of the future of the global tech industry.
StartUP Africa is a multi-season business-themed TV series, which tells the stories of the challenges, hopes and fears faced by young tech entrepreneurs in Africa as they develop their startup from just an idea to a profitable business. Developed the year before the COVID-19 global pandemic, StartUP Africa takes viewers along a journey with the entrepreneurs in Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya — through the stages of founding a tech company, acquiring funding from early investors to venture capitalists, participating in business incubators, the local startup scene, and Africa’s entrepreneurial connection to the center of the tech world in Silicon Valley.
The series is produced as a co-production with the leading broadcast TV stations in Nigeria (Channels TV), Ghana (Citi TV), Rwanda (RBA), Uganda (NBS), and Kenya (KTN) giving it a unique and authentic view of the tech scene in Africa.
Silicon Valley and Africa
StartUP Africa’s mission is to be a culturally defining series that inspires a new generation of African entrepreneurs to dream and produce big — innovations, solutions, businesses, and job creation for the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora.
The StartUP Africa series is part of the Voice of America’s commitment to reporting on high technology from its roots in Silicon Valley to Africa and around the world.
Interview with Ruth Musoke Biyinzika, Head, Skills Development Facility, Kampala, Uganda.
StartUP Africa season one is comprised of six episodes.
E-Pay - Season 1, Episode 1
This scene-setter episode asks the questions, “What is a Startup?” and “What does ‘Starting Lean’ mean?” Through the lens of e-pay startups, episode one illustrates the problems that startups solve and the challenges of launching a new tech business.
Ride Share - Season 1, Episode 2
Through the challenges and victories of young African entrepreneurs, we learn how tech startups are launching ride-sharing businesses to address the problems of traffic congestion, safety, and cost of travel.
Opportunity - Season 1, Episode 3
Tech startups create opportunities for Africans across the continent. From the workplace to the educational and environmental ecosystems, we look at how tech startups change the way we learn, the way we do business, and the way we live.
Farm to City - Season 1, Episode 4
From Agritech to moving goods across the continent, to fulfilling the African energy needs, young entrepreneurs push beyond limitations set before them to create innovative ways of using technology to make a better world.
Health-Tech - Season 1, Episode 5
Solving some of the most challenging health problems of the African continent, health tech startups are addressing problems ranging from access to medical care, infant and maternal mortality and rapid diagnostics, and consistent, convenient monitoring of critical health care needs.
Rise UP - Season 1, Episode 6
In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, we follow up with CEOs featured throughout season one. They share how coronavirus impacted their businesses, how they adapted, and what opportunities arose as a result of the pandemic.
James Ndekezi, Co-founder of Kwanda Labs testing a remote-controlled robot in Kigali, Rwanda.
The StartUP Africa series is comprised of five seasons.
Season One - Visionaries (6 episodes)
We meet entrepreneurs in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana. We learn what problems their start-ups solve, what challenges they face, and what’s at risk. Through the stories of the entrepreneurs, the audience begins to see how at no other time in world history has this much opportunity been available to people who might not have been raised in affluence or with access to traditional educations and career paths. Giving youth ideas for how they can make a profitable living, we paint a picture of the opportunities that exist in the tech sector.
In the season Finale, we hear how the Coronavirus lockdowns impacted these start-ups. Skyping with those still under stay-at-home orders and conducting in-person interviews with those in countries where lockdowns have been lifted, we hear how they faced the challenges of lockdown, what they learned, and what the future looks like for their companies. The season finale ends with a cliffhanger that leaves the audience cheering for these entrepreneurs and wondering what new startups will have arisen from the opportunities created by a global tragedy.
Season Two - Leadership (10 episodes)
We begin Season 2 returning to the entrepreneurs profiled in the first season. We look at the leaders and the companies that survived, and their prospects for the future. How did their company survive the pandemic? How did they manage their companies through the hardships and opportunities of the crisis? Have they changed their business model and product, because of the pandemic? Has their financial situation including opportunities for investment changed, because of the pandemic?
Season 2 introduces new entrepreneurs and companies founded in response to the crisis. We focus on the development of new technology and solutions that reflect the changing business opportunities and social realities of the post-coronavirus world.
We ask the questions: How has the entrepreneurs’ vision for a startup changed due to the Coronavirus? Have these entrepreneurs changed how they staff and manage their company, because of the crisis? Have the entrepreneurs changed their leadership style and expectations due to the pandemic? Has the availability of financial investment for startups, whether from angel financiers to institutional investment changed due to the Coronavirus?
Season Three - Mentorship (10 episodes)
Season 3 is about paying back to where you started. Season 3 is also when StartUP Africa starts to become more of a reality TV series, because of the drama created between entrepreneurs who are successfully contrasted against people who want to become successful tech entrepreneurs.
The storyline for Season 3 is about the experienced entrepreneurs profiled in Seasons 1 and 2 acting as mentors to new entrepreneurs, but do not know how to begin. The new entrepreneurs will be either people who want to start their first tech company or people who have a traditional brick and mortar business but want to reinvent their business into a tech company. The mentors who are experienced entrepreneurs will be owners of successful tech startups.
We will choose the experienced entrepreneurs with the strongest storylines and pair them with the founders of promising new business ideas. The experienced entrepreneurs will provide mentorship on how to start a tech business, giving advice from their own hard-won experiences, such as how to position their business for success, how to manage personnel, financial and market challenges, and how to avoid common startup problems. We intend to document the process of how a mentor guides a tech entrepreneur.
Season Four - Successful Failures (10 episodes)
Season 4 follows the most compelling stories, and we see the more long-term benefits of the mentorship these entrepreneurs received in the previous season.
Season 4 takes a hard look at challenges the StartUP Africa entrepreneurs are currently facing, lessons learned, and, perhaps, see some companies fall away and some thrive. This storyline of Season 4 underscores the value of failing as an entrepreneur. One of the season’s themes is why tech investors value very highly those entrepreneurs who have failed, even who have failed multiple times, over an entrepreneur with no experience starting a company.
Season Five - Empowerment (10 episodes)
Season 5 brings together the entrepreneurs with the strongest storylines who we have been following in the previous seasons and connects them with institutional investors from the United States, Europe, Africa, or Asia. This is the opportunity for the StartUP Africa entrepreneurs to compete on the highest level for financial support, product, and market relevance.
We see how the StartUP Africa entrepreneurs respond to the increased scrutiny of their companies, surviving in a high-stakes environment, giving away ownership in exchange for substantial investment, and what will be done with additional resources. We hear why investors are willing or not willing to take risks with these companies.
Ronald Hakiza, Co-founder and CEO, UGABUS, being interviewed at the Jaguar bus terminal in Kampala, Uganda.
Production and Partnership Training
The StartUP Africa production team collaborated with our series co-production partners in Nigeria (Channels TV), Ghana (Citi TV), Rwanda (RBA), Uganda (NBS), and Kenya (KTN) to provide in-person training to producers, videographers, editors, and writers for the series.
What did partner stations agree to produce?
Co-production partners produced up to three startup segments per month, with a commitment of a day of shooting, half-day scripting, 1.5 days editing for a total of 24-hours per startup package. That is a total of 48-hours per co-production per month.
How long was the training?
The length of the training for a co-production partner was five days. The period allows enough time to train the production staff in the concept for StartUP Africa, the production process, and production, including arranging interviews with the startups, pre-production, shooting (principal photography), and post-production.
This scenario provided a finished first draft of a segment ready for production notes from our team or a video that is close to finished for a final edit by our VOA team in Washington.
The status of the segments varied according to the co-production partner's capacity. Ideally, we wanted a rough cut. This included the rough production cut, the raw files, the Premiere production file (or XML equivalent), the production notes, interview transcriptions, and the interview details.
What were the deliverables?
Rough cuts, raw files, time codes, the Premiere production file (or XML equivalent), the production notes, interview transcriptions, and the interview details and supporting documents of the characters appearing in the segments. Requests for additional footage were addressed on a case-by-case basis.
How did co-production affiliates support the training?
Affiliate partners agreed to provide a cohort of 9 to 12 producers and trainees, editing facilities for as many stories that were produced during the week of training, and space for the training.
What were the staff attributes that were needed to be successful?
A creative employee who wanted to do more than news packages. Someone who wanted to push their limits and learn new skills. An out-of-the-box thinker and doer with the curiosity to explore visionary entrepreneurship.
Eunice Maina (L), Founder and CEO, Bismart in Nairobi, Kenya collaborating with a co-worker.
StartUP Africa Case Study
Opportunity, Collaboration, and Partnership
This case study describes the concept, methodology, results, and analysis involved in the creation of a collaborative and co-produced television series between the Voice of America (VOA) and some of the leading television stations in Africa -- Nigeria (Channels TV), Ghana (Citi TV), Rwanda (RBA), Uganda (NBS), and Kenya (KTN).
Partner stations and the VOA were interested in developing a ground-breaking television series that documents the effort to bridge the digital divide between Africa and the rest of the world. The result of this interest is StartUP Africa.
StartUP Africa is about effort led by young entrepreneurs, men, and women, who are breaking stereotypes and building the future of Africa. The series celebrates and promotes diversity and the inclusion of sub-Saharan Africa as an integral and critical part of the future of the global tech industry.
The sub-Saharan media landscape presented a unique business and cultural opportunity for television stations and the VOA. The business opportunity was in response to the collapse of the OTT digital media channels in Africa which had difficulty acquiring paid subscribers. This situation forced content producers to reevaluate how they produced high-end television products. The cultural opportunity centered on the desire of both television stations and the VOA to create programming that reflected positive stories about Africa. StartUP Africa is the culmination of these business and cultural opportunities.
VOA wanted to develop a multi-season television series for broadcast and digital media in collaboration with some of the leading stations in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, the VOA wanted to determine if a television series could be produced by co-production partners located in different parts of Africa often with a disparate audience, economic, and programming objectives.
The methodology involved in-person training with media professionals at partner stations who had limited experience with television series. The primary method meant having VOA’s commitment to training almost 100 staff members ranging from producers, videographers, and editors to create StartUP Africa. A secondary method was to train staff both in the classroom and in real-time field exercises. A tertiary method was to target training to young men and women who are the next generation of media professionals in Africa.
The result was season 1 of StartUP Africa. The co-production teams were able to deliver six of the planned ten episodes which was a significant accomplishment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, almost 100 people were trained to produce the series. Most were young men and women who represent the future of the media industry in Africa.
The production team conducted a SWOT analysis of the training and the project. The determination was the production methodology was effectively based on the deliverables, station commitment to air the series, interest in developing a season 2, advertising sales, and audience reaction.
The partner stations and VOA were so pleased with the production process, the collaboration, and the quality of the product that they agreed to produce season two of StartUP Africa.
Co-Production LeadsPhilip Ashon - Citi TV
Kevin Kaija - NBS
Victor Mathias - Channels TV
Lilian Odera - KTN
Jessica Opare-Saforo - Citi TV
Co-Production LeadsNick Otieno - KTN
Tuyisenge Revocat - RTV
Sandister Tei - Citi TV
Kingsley Uranta - Channels TV
Ellen Wanjiru - KTN
StartUP Africa, VOASteven Ferri - Director / Producer
Laura Keel - Executive Producer
Karina Choudhury - Editor / Producer
Paul Ndiho - Senior Tech Reporter
Scott Stearns - Managing Editor
Rebecca Pujo - Production Assistant
Todd Brown - Producer